Student traffic ramps up

Thousands of students filed into classrooms at Southern Oregon University this morning for the start of fall term — many of them crossing busy Ashland streets to get there.

Preliminary data suggests enrollment will likely be up at SOU this fall, officials announced this morning, and with more students come more pedestrian traffic problems.

The university, which straddles Siskiyou Boulevard — Ashland's main thoroughfare — worked with the city this summer to improve a crosswalk where a student was critically injured in February 2008.

Gladys Jimenez, 22, died a week after being struck by a car in a Siskiyou Boulevard crosswalk at Garfield Street.

This summer, the city worked to make that crosswalk safer. Crews have reoriented the crosswalk so it is perpendicular to the street, instead of diagonal, and have installed flashing warning beacons, a median and another streetlight at the intersection.

SOU administrators are pleased with the city's improvements to the crosswalk, said Larry Blake, SOU's director of campus planning and sustainability and a member of the city's Planning Commission.

"I think it's made it considerably safer," he said. "That was really a hazardous intersection before."

University officials have also given all new students information on how to cross the streets safely, Blake said.

"We're trying to make them aware of the need for vigilance on that street," he said.

Blake said he was not aware of any crashes involving pedestrians and motorists near the university in recent months. Ashland Police Department officials could not be immediately reached.

Angelina Awege, a 27-year-old exchange student from Germany who began her first day of classes at SOU this morning, said she wasn't worried about crossing the street at the Garfield Street intersection.

"I do feel safe crossing the street, but I do look for cars," she said. "It's a two-way system."

Drivers and pedestrians need to be more aware now that school is in session, she said.

"You can't just trust that you'll be seen," Awege said. "Sometimes a driver drinks a coffee or changes the music channels."

SOU senior Alex Schoebel, 25, who remembers when Jimenez was struck in the Garfield crosswalk, said he's especially careful crossing at that intersection, as he did this morning.

"I think a big part of it is just awareness," he said. "People get distracted, talking on their cell phones or thinking about class or what have you."

Now that the crosswalk's been improved, does Schoebel feel safe crossing Siskiyou Boulevard at Garfield Street?

"Only when I look both ways," he said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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